Six current and former female Wal-Mart employees will represent not only themselves in their sex discrimination lawsuit against the retail giant, but “‘all women employed at any Wal-Mart domestic retail store at any time since Dec. 26, 1998.’” This would include over a million women. The plaintiffs argue that their instances of discrimination are not unique, but “that the company’s ‘strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination.” Their assertion is supported by not only their own stories, but 120 documented incidents from other female employees. If found guilty in discriminating against more than a million employees, Wal-mart could pay billions.
A federal appeals court certified the class-action suit, making it the largest class-action employment suit in U.S. history. Wal-Mart said in a statement that it was considering seeking review from the Supreme Court, but if the Court does not hear the case or hears the case and affirms the lower court’s decision, the lawsuit will continue on behalf of over a million plaintiffs. If it does hear the case and does not certify the suit, then female employees of the chain claiming sex discrimination will have to file individual lawsuits.
Wal-Mart claims that the complaints of discrimination from the six women are not indicative of systemic sexism. The women, however, say that while more than 70% of the Wal-Mart workforce is female, women occupy less than a third of management positions. The plaintiffs claim that, in general, women are “paid less than men in comparable positions, receive fewer promotions and wait longer for promotions.”
We will keep you informed about any updates in this case.